Last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner did what White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) Dinners seem to almost always do: Provide fodder for the nation’s manufacturers of outrage.
That’s generally a waste of time, but the impression of journalists left behind could be bad for all of us.
The cause for getting out the fainting couches at this year’s WHCA event a week ago Saturday were jokes told by the night’s featured comic, Michelle Wolf.
Wolf worked blue — but, hey, that’s pretty much the norm for big-name comics today. What caused a stir was how she went after President Donald Trump and Trump White House staffers. Some of the sharpest material was aimed at White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know? Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? What’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Aunt Coulter,” Wolf said.
Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a well-known Trump supporter, and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, the White House’s director of strategic communications, took to Twitter to tell the world they had walked out on Wolf’s routine.
“Enough of elites mocking us,” Matt Schlapp tweeted.
“It’s why America hates the out-of-touch, leftist media elite,” Mercedes Schlapp tweeted.
Points to The New York Times for noting Mrs. Schlapp made her critique against the “leftist media elite” while riding in “a limousine en route to an exclusive after-party organized by NBC/MSNBC.”
President Trump weighed in by tweeting, “FAKE NEWS is alive and well and beautifully represented on Saturday night!”
“Elite” is the last word anyone would have used to describe Anniston Star reporter Kirsten Fiscus on Thursday. Fiscus covered the walking tour of the high school mountain-biking trail proposed for McClellan. Tromping through the woods and dodging poison ivy in 80-degree weather is hardly elite, but the prospect of creating a wonderful asset for the community is very real.
Consider Anniston Star reporter Bill Wilson’s Wednesday. He was on the scene not long after bank-robbery suspects crashed their vehicle along Interstate 20 in Cleburne County. Wilson’s photos captured men suspected of robbing the Heflin branch of Small Town Bank who were handcuffed by law enforcers. In the background was their would-be getaway car, a heavily damaged gray Dodge Avenger set back in the woods away from the highway. Covering a bank robbery was exciting, but hardly glamorous for a veteran journalist like Wilson.
Meanwhile, at about the same time Wolf was doing her routine on Saturday and the Schlapps were decrying her, Anniston Star sports chief copy editor Jared Gravette was designing the Sunday sports section. It’s a thankless job that requires serious attention to detail, computer skills, an eye for knowing how to make photos, headlines and stories work together to better inform readers, and comfort with working late into the night.
As a newspaper mentor once told me, “The only people more anonymous than small-town newspaper reporters are their editors.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is a spectacle where journalists in their tuxes and fancy evening gowns rub elbows with the powerful people they cover. The work done by Kirsten, Bill, Jared and the rest of the amazing journalists at The Anniston Star is something different and, in my opinion, far more valuable to our community. If you don’t believe me, subscribe to The Star and find out for yourself.